Stephen is a debt advisor at STEPNI in Dungannon and is supported by Cedar Foundation on Workable (NI)
What was your situation before you started Workable (NI)?
After I left university in 2012, I was struggling from job to job. I didn’t have a full understanding of the impact that my dyspraxia could have on my life, and it really did have an impact. I heard about the Workable (NI) programme when I spoke to a friend who was already on it. They really recommended it. A lady called Bernadette in Belfast was my mentor at the very start, and she was very helpful.
How would you describe your experience on Workable (NI)?
With Workable, you feel like you always have a layer of support. You also know that your employer understands the difficulties that you face. It helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses and build a career.
What would you say is the highlight of your time on WorkableNI?
There are too many things; I couldn’t write them all down. It has given me a platform to show my talents and not be lost in a crowd. I found the one-to-one meetings very helpful, particularly my sessions with my Employment Officer, Katie. I was stuck in a rut, and we discussed how we would make the situation work. She helped me figure out what to do next, and I ended up doing a qualification in benefits advice which led me to my current position. Through the programme I also started working very closely with a life coach, which was immensely positive. I am now a fully accredited debt and benefits advisor. I also have a degree in tourism, I am a level 4 social security advisor, and I am completing a level 3 in generalist advice.
Have you noticed a progression in your confidence?
Absolutely, I would have had no confidence in myself. Before, I would have told myself that I was the worst, at the bottom of the class. The biggest thing has been realising my potential. I now can say that there is more to Stephen Sheridan, and I can mix it with the best of them! A big part of this is due to my current employer Bernadette, who has also been a big support to me.
How do you feel about the future?
I feel very, very positive. This last year I have qualified as a debt and benefit advisor, and I have developed a clear career path. I am now working in the job I have wanted to do since I was at school. I have always wanted to give something back to my local community. I wake up every morning and I look forward to going to work; because of this I feel like I will never work another day in my life. That’s really how I feel. STEPNI is situated where I grew up, so when I look out the window, I am looking at my local community, and it inspires me to work hard for the people of the town.
What advice would you give to someone who was considering contacting Workable (NI)?
Speak up, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. A lot of employers are understanding. If I could speak to a younger me, at 16 or 17, I would have said that I should have had more confidence in myself. My school did equip me, but I wasn’t confident enough. I would love to share my experience with my own school, St Patricks College. There might be people there with disabilities that could benefit from hearing my story.